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Last Updated:  Thursday, 6 March, 2003, 12:11 GMT
Zeros to heroes in seven days
Sri Lanka captain Sanath Jayasuriya
Jayasuriya has led by example
They say a week is a long time in football, but the same is also true if you are a Sri Lankan cricketer.

Having begun their World Cup with three emphatic wins, Sri Lanka became a laughing stock when they suffered a shock 53-run loss to Kenya.

It seemed their dismal pre-tournament form had come back to haunt them.

But in the space of seven days the Nairobi result was forgotten as Sanath Jayasuriya's side beat the West Indies and clinched an amazing tie with South Africa in their final Group B game.

Defeat in the rain in Durban might have put Sri Lanka out, but instead they went through to the Super Sixes as pool winners.

They now begin the second phase with 7.5 points, giving them a great chance of making it through to the semi-finals.

One more victory after that, and a repeat of their suprise victory over Australia to lift the trophy in 1996 might just be on the cards.

Few would have made Sri Lanka realistic World Cup contenders after watching their 4-1 one-day series defeat in South Africa last November.

Chaminda Vaas
Vaas is in devastating form
The poor form continued as they failed to make it through to the final of the VB Series against Australia and England.

But coach Dav Whatmore believes the experience of playing on Australian and South African wickets ultimately helped his players.

"The subcontinental teams have this problem with bouncy tracks whenever they travel to Australia or South Africa," said Whatmore.

"The only way for batsmen to get better is to keep playing on these pitches. That's what we did over the past five months."

At the root of Sri Lanka's improvement has been the form of two players - captain Jayasuriya and strike bowler Chaminda Vaas.

Opener Jayasuriya has led by example, laying the foundations of victories against New Zealand and the West Indies with key knocks of 120 and 66.

Vaas - along with West Indies' Vasbert Drakes - is the leading wicket taker in the tournament with 16 scalps at an average of 9.9.

The left-arm paceman claimed four wickets in the very first over against Bangladesh, setting a one-day record by taking a hat-trick in the first three balls.

And his four-for-22 haul against the West Indies included the scalps of key batsmen Wavell Hinds, Brian Lara and Chris Gayle.

Vaas has been ably supported by spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan.

Muralitharan has taken 12 wickets so far, and he gave up just two runs in the penultimate over against the West Indies to snuff out a dramatic run chase.

If Murali and his team-mates can avoid a repeat of their Nairobi nightmare, Sri Lanka fans might just have to start looking for tickets for the final after all.





Links to more Sri Lanka stories


 

SEE ALSO
Jayasuriya: We wanted victory
03 Mar 03 |  World Cup
Sri Lanka into Super Sixes
03 Mar 03 |  World Cup


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